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U.S. Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report 2011 – China, July 30, 2012

The U.S. Congress mandates that the State Department prepare an annual report on religious freedom around the world.

July 30, 2012

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Executive Summary
The constitution provides for freedom of “religious belief,” but limits protections for religious practice to “normal religious activities.” The government applies the term “normal religious activities” in a manner that does not meet international human rights standards for freedom of religion. The government’s respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom deteriorated.

The constitution says that no state, public organization, or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion. Only religious groups belonging to one of the five state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations” (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Protestant) are permitted to register with the government and legally hold worship services. Other religious groups, such as Protestant groups unaffiliated with the official patriotic religious association or Catholics professing loyalty to the Vatican, are not permitted to register as legal entities. Proselytizing in public or unregistered places of worship is not permitted. Some religious and spiritual groups are outlawed. Tibetan Buddhists in China are not free to venerate the Dalai Lama openly and encounter severe government interference in religious practice (see Tibet section). Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members are required to be atheists and are generally discouraged from participating in religious activities.

During the year the government’s repression of religious freedom remained severe in Tibetan areas and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The government continued to implement measures strictly regulating religious activity and severely limited religious freedoms in Tibetan areas and in the XUAR.

Registered religious groups provided social services throughout the country, and certain overseas faith-based aid groups were allowed to deliver services in coordination with local authorities and domestic groups. Some unregistered religious groups reported that local authorities placed limits on their ability to provide social services.

There were reports of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, ethnicity, belief, or practice. Both Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists reported increased societal discrimination, especially around sensitive periods.

The Department of State, the embassy, and consulates general in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Wuhan consistently urged the government to expand the scope of religious freedom in accordance with the rights codified in the constitution and internationally recognized norms. U.S. officials criticized abuses of religious freedom, acknowledged positive trends, and met with religious believers, family members of religious prisoners, and religious freedom defenders. The embassy protested the imprisonment of individuals on charges related to their religious practices and other abuses of religious freedom. Since 1999 the secretary of state has designated the country as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for particularly severe violations of religious freedom. On August 18, the secretary redesignated the country as a CPC.